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HARRIS, THAYER, DESIDERIO INTERVIEWS – LIFE IN GENERAL

THE KAREN HARRIS INTERVIEW

LIFE IN GENERAL

“Life in General” premiered on Strike.TV in late October. As part of this special three-part feature, I spoke with the show’s creator, “GH” writer, Karen Harris and two of the show’s stars, Brynn Thayer and Robert Desiderio.

This week, the show premieres in its new online incarnation with both parts: “Life in General” featuring the behind-the-scenes antics of a soap opera, married to its counterpart; “Greenville General,” which is the soap all the characters appear on in “Life in General.” Confused? You won’t be now with this new version. You can watch both components and get the entire intended experience!

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Karen Harris to get some insight into being a writer for a top soap, and to get the inside scoop on some burning questions “GH” fans want to know, and of course, to talk about her brilliant online creation, “Life in General”!

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Listen to the audio:

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MICHAEL:

Karen, it’s such a treat to chat with you, and we will get into all things soap writing and “GH” in a moment.First off, I really thought “Life in General” was terrific. Go over with me the creative process in your mind as Arian Zuker, Robert Desiderio, and Brynn Thayer were cast in the main roles. What were you thoughts?

KAREN:

The idea of “Life in General” started in the early 90’s when I went over to work at “GH.” I thought, “Well, what goes on behind-the-scenes of a soap is way more fun.” Now, I am not saying anyone on those shows is specifically someone I worked with. But as you work in the world, you get to know who they are and know who the icons are. Now you know a character like Raymond Kennedy is based on Irna Phillips meets Doug Marland meets Agnes Nixon.

MICHAEL:

And you had the idea for “Life in General” for quite awhile.

KAREN:

LIG.jpgIt was going to be a ‘dramedy’, a half hour, behind-the-scenes look into soaps. I even think I pitched it to Brian Frons who was at New World at the time. The networks have a hard time with shows that deal with the behind-the-scenes of the business, and maybe in broadcast television, it does have its struggles. I loved it so much that I decided to go back to it and create “Greenville General,” the soap opera they all work on. I never planned to make it a separate show. Then I sat down one day and I said, “I am going to write the teaser.” I wrote the whole 10-12 pages, which is the pilot, the show you are looking at on Strike TV. The characters are very much the same as I created. The inspiration for the first couple in “Life in General” was Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes. The Days, played by Robert and Brynn have been divorced and remarried so many times, and on “Greenville General,” they cannot separate the two. I don’t want to say who it was but an actor who was getting divorced on soap said to me, “It’s hard to talk to each other when the lines aren’t being written” and that’s so true. So, that is what I am doing with this couple. That’s what happens when Brynn and Robert do these roles, and when Brian says to Ari, “You haven’t had anything good for me since you took me out of the wheelchair.” I wonder what inspired that. I put that line in after I left “AMC.” (She laughs.)

MICHAEL:

How did you decide to put Brynn in her role on “Life in General”?

KAREN:

She is always in the back of my mind. I had worked with her for 20 years. I went to see her one-woman play, which is called “Eulogy.” Judith and Robert were there and it was opening night. As a writer, she wanted me to see it and to give her my feedback. So I said to her, “I know it’s your opening night, but I am doing an internet soap pilot.” She said, “Just tell me where you want me.” When I saw Judith and Robert, something inspired me about Robert. So I called Brynn the next day and she put me in touch with Robert. He was a bit hesitant at first because it was acting on the internet, but we wanted to prove it could be done when the strike was happening. This group, Strike TV, was formed, and I heard them making an announcement at a Writer’s Guild meeting. I said, “I want to be there. It’s a chance to do a life without notes!”

ariane33.jpgMICHAEL:

Tell me about Ariane Zuker’s role, who I loved in it!

KAREN:

Ariane’s role is based on the anxiety of being the head writer on a soap.

MICHAEL:

Is she your voice?

KAREN:

She is as much my voice; but I am not a tall, willowy, blonde Shiksa from Atlanta!

MICHAEL:

But she is your voice!

GREEN3.jpgKAREN:

Yes, exactly. She is younger than I was when I first head wrote. Her background in my mind is she is a little more repressed than I am. In my mind, this character is a woman who puts on the page what she can’t live in real life. She is afraid and completely devoted to her writing and her career. It’s all a good excuse not to be emotional. She is kind of waspy, and she can write very hot. She lives her romance on the page but she does not get to live it in her life. She might meet someone in real life and fall in love, but she could not say it to them. So, she lets her characters do the talking. But what I tried to do with this is show the world of her work, and the chaos she goes through. Then, her world turns around. This episode is called “Out of Control.” She can’t find her leading lady. Someone is re-writing her show and characters are divorcing each other. When you watch the episode of the two scenes with “Greenville General,” they are both about not having control. At the end of the episode, she goes to her typewriter and says, “Things never turn out the way you expect them too.” That’s also Brynn’s last line in the soap opera.

MICHAEL

For those who don’t know, you are currently a script writer at “GH.”

KAREN:

Yes. This time around I just completed my third year and I’m starting a new three-year cycle.

MICHAEL:

Tell me your journey to becoming a writer on “GH”?

KAREN:

“GH” was my first soap. I had been in primetime television, writing a lot of character pieces, a lot of pilots and that was just in the 90s. I thought I needed to re-create myself. Wendy Riche was a colleague of mine at Universal, and when she went over to “GH” as executive producer, she asked, “You want to come over?” At first, I said, “No,” but she insisted it would be worth investigating.

MICHAEL:

But you had watched soaps before?

KAREN:

I knew from watching NBC. Their line-up back then was “The Doctors,” “Days of our Lives,” “Somerset” and “Another World.” I knew the genre. It’s interesting because I was not a devoted primetime soap watcher of shows like “90210” or “Dallas” or “Dynasty” or “Knots Landing.” I appreciated them, but they didn’t hook me. As a viewer, I, like Wendy, started watching. She said to me, “You could be a head writer in no time at all.” So I put myself into training for daytime. I did a nice transition to daytime. I loved writing it but it was an odd set up at the time. Bill Levinson was the head writer and I came in pretty arrogant. I thought I was hot stuff. I learned very quickly. Then they hired someone else to be the head writer. They hired Claire Labine who I loved working for. When she came in, she pretty much cleaned house and brought in her own team. We were all very flattered, those that got to stay. After three years, she decided to move on, so “GH” brought in veteran Bob Guza as head writer. Wendy said, “You will be his co- head writer.” I was thrilled! We spent almost a year bringing Carly to the canvas along with the Cassadines.

MICHAEL:

Tell the fans why holding the reigns of daytime soap is so difficult when you are the head writer.

maurice.jpgKAREN:

Being head writer is one of the hardest jobs in daytime. The first time out, I wrote the Sonny/Brenda story, which I am so proud of. I had a passion for Sonny and used that to develop his back-story. Maurice has often said that without my husband, Sonny would not exist, because a lot of the back-story is based on my husband’s rather tortured childhood. It is a difficult and demanding job. I remember pitching ideas to Wendy. It was a six-month long story. We worked so hard working all the points out, and Wendy said, “So, what comes next?” We had just given her six months of long story! You see, in daytime soap opera, it’s this machine that eats up material that makes it so tough.

MICHAEL:

So many in the industry, including myself, try to understand why some of the same head writers are constantly recycled into other soaps. I know part of it is that producers feel confident that they can handle the rigors of the quick turnaround.

KAREN:

It’s partly that, and partly that the producers and writing teams know that these writers can write for the pace of daytime. It is important to keep up that pace and be not as concerned as to the quality. If I had the chance to do it again, to be a head writer on a soap, it’s something you don’t do alone. For my own show, I would have a team. But for “Life in General,” it’s only 15 minutes of show. When you are writing or doing a show 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, you feel no matter how quickly you work, you can never get ahead. But currently, I am a scriptwriter which I love doing. I write one episode a week, and that is great.

MICHAEL:

On “GH,” who would you say is the hardest character for you to write for?

Nikolas-Nain.jpgKAREN:

There would be a couple for me. I have a harder time hearing their voices. If there is a good story to tell, then they all make sense to me. Sometimes Nikolas can be a bit tough, especially when we are going through a transition with him. For example, “What do we do now that there is no Emily? Where is his heart and soul?” So it was tough finding his humanness, coming out of the pain of Emily, and being charmed by Nadine, without
sacrificing him and his character.

MICHAEL:

What are your thoughts about where the writing team is taking Nadine?

KAREN:

With Nadine, she could be a little like Lucy Coe right now, if we write her that way. Lucy, over the years, became a different person on the scene. She was a bit more of a villainess but had that kookiness. If we write Nadine the right way, as a little bit of Felicia, and a little bit Lucy, it would be a good idea to interject this in the darker “GH” that we currently have. That’s how she struck me.

MICHAEL:

What about the character of Carly?

srah-brown.jpgKAREN:

Carly is off the wall, and Laura Wright is so brave. She is the bravest actress and the same with Sarah Brown. I just got to write a scene between Carly and Claudia that is great. Now it’s not a major plot point, but it’s a major part of the episode where they go at it. Sarah Brown does not say a line without sexual undertones. So you don’t have to write her flirty with Ric or Sonny. You can write her fairly straight ahead and
know that the actors will bring it.

MICHAEL:

Is it true for you that the actors influence writers?

KAREN:

Absolutely. If you are adept at what you do as a writer, the actors inspire you. When I first saw Maurice Benard, I sat in the booth. He had been on for a week. I saw scenes where Sonny was getting Karen to strip, and I said, “Oh my God. I just saw Al Pacino!” He then started to develop in my head. I was so inspired by him.

vanessa.jpgMICHAEL:

Ok, I have to ask. What about Brenda? Is there ever going to be a Vanessa Marcil comeback?

KAREN:

As you probably read, it’s been an ongoing conversation because she keeps getting work. My hope is that she might be available, but there are so many budget cuts going on right now. I don’t know if we could afford her. That’s just my thoughts about it.

MICHAEL:

What can we expect on “GH” in 2009?

KAREN:

I am not the head writer, so it’s not my place to tease it. But from what I have heard, Bob Guza has a pretty amazing story planned. It will be an umbrella story that will cover much of the canvas.

MICHAEL:

Who are your favorite characters or couples on “GH”? I think I know.

KAREN:

I can tell you that my favorite couple of the moment to watch is Patrick and Robin. I write for them a lot. There is a second wedding coming up. I did write the day before Thanksgiving, and it was a “time out of time” or a dream show. It was all Robin and Patrick. It’s a “sliding doors” idea. It answers the question, “What would have happened if we hadn’t met the way we did?”

jason-kimber.jpgMICHAEL:

Are there any episodes of yours coming up on “GH” that we can tease?

KAREN:

I just finished the New Year’s episode which was couples and romance. I used to write more mobster stories with Sonny because I was the action-adventure writer. Anything with mobsters, Claire Labine would give them to me. I came from “Night Rider” and action shows. Hopefully now at “GH,” we are a happy combination of “The Sopranos” meets “Grey’s Anatomy.” Since we are on five days a week, there is room for that. I know there are a lot of fans that think the show is geared more toward the mobsters than the hospital, but if you look at our mobsters, they are actually very interesting. Getting the Zacharras in the story, they are very gothic. Now that we don’t have the Cassadines, except for Nikolas, the Zacharra family brings that gothic element, one that is very sick and twisted. One of the challenges for me is to wrap my head around being in the room with those people. Good writing is “every character wants something.”

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MICHAEL:

How would you describe, “Life in General” if you had to quickly put a button on it for those who don’t know about it, and want to click on it and see it?

KAREN:

It is, in my opinion, a pretty accurate view of the craziness of the behind-the-scenes of the soap opera. It’s got the best actors. It’s so much fun. If you are a fan of soaps, I think you will get a kick out of it. If you have never seen a soap in your life, it’s still really entertaining, and it might make you more interested in watching a soap.

THE BRYNN THAYER INTERVIEW

Brynn1.jpgLIFE IN GENERAL

It has been ten years since I caught up with one of my all-time favorite actresses and human beings, Brynn Thayer. When I found out she was appearing in the new online soap, “Life in General”, I decided it was time for us to get together for a chat.

Many soap fans remember her as Jenny Wolek on “OLTL”. For eight remarkable years Jenny’s troubles and the troubles of her sister Karen, played by Judith Light, headlined the soap.

Brynn, known also to audiences from the TV series “Matlock”, was also integral in bringing Michael Zaslow’s final soap opera performance to the screen as David Renaldi battling ALS,
as Michael had in his own life.

Brynn and I talked about it all! Without
further adieu…

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MICHAEL:

This is so thrilling for me, because I have not talked to Brynn in a number of years and there is so much to talk about and catch up on! But, it’s starts with “Life In General”. How did it come about?

BRYNN:

Karen Harris, who is a friend, had this idea to do this behind the scenes of soap operas and it has a companion piece called “Greenville General”. She presented it to a website called Strike TV, which was created after the writers strike took place a year and half ago. Thirty percent of whatever revenue Strike TV makes goes to the Actors Fund, which is a charity that takes care of not only actors, but also behind-the-scenes, below the line crew people. If they have not been able to get a job since the strike, or if they need a job with their medical problems, the actors fund will help them do that. Karen got a lot of her friends together for a web series. We did it in a two-day period. It was shot in a warehouse somewhere…don’t even know where it was. It’s the personalities of these characters, and what they go through behind-the–scenes in the soap opera “Greenville General”. It’s the crazy antics of actors, producers, writers, and directors of soap operas and what goes on when the cameras are not rolling.

MICHAEL:

And the part you play is?

BRYNN:

I play the diva of the soap opera, “Greenville General”. My dear friend, Robert Desiderio, who is a wonderful actor and screenwriter, plays my husband. The character’s name was Rachel Carlton Day and Robert was Brian Day, and they were sort of named after Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes. I am sure that’s who they were patterned after. That’s what Karen was thinking. Anyway, we are the couple that has been on the show the longest and we are married, but in the process of getting a divorce. We basically hate each other, but we are madly in love with each other when we are on screen. We had a ball doing it and I loved saying Karen’s words. She is one of my favorite writers on “GH”, and she has put this to paper and it’s all her creation.

MICHAEL:

When you and Robert saw the script, did you rehearse or just show up to shoot it?

Robert-Brynn.jpgBRYNN:

Robert and I just showed up. Karen had asked me to do this. I think we were all at a party one-day and she called me and said, “Will Robert play your husband?” I said, “Well I think he better!” So I called him and said, “Would you be interested?” And he got on board right away. I don’t think we ran the lines till we got there that day, but we played on the relationship we have in real-life, and we had so much history together as friends. Robert is married to Judith Light, who is my dear friend, and we were all on “OLTL” together back in the good old days.

MICHAEL:

You got to work with Ariane Zuker (Nicole) of “DAYS”, too. Did you enjoy working with her?

BRYNN:

I loved working with her. I blatantly asked her, “Did she have a mother on “DAYS”?” And she said, “No.” I said, “You need one!” She is quite a wonderful actress and beautiful to look at it.

Ariane3.jpgMICHAEL:

Did you like “Life in General” after you had watched it? Is it hard as an actress to watch your own work?

BRYNN:

I am a slut for TV. I like to watch myself, and it’s not hard. (She laughs) The way Karen Harris writes, when you read it you know you love it, and when I watched it, it was exactly as she wrote it. She writes such real full characters, that it’s a joy.

MICHAEL:

Was there a funniest moment during the taping?

BRYNN:

We had lots of laughs, and we all said, “If we get to continue this, count us in.” Well, Robert is one of the funniest guys. We are each other’s biggest fans, and I got to slam a newspaper between his legs! (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

Did you like playing the ‘Diva’?

BrynnLeopard.jpgBRYNN:

Oh yes, I loved it! I wish someone would hire me as the diva bitch! (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

So, what now is the goal with “Life” and “Greenville”?

BRYNN:

The goal is to get picked up and to do more episodes, because we are all moving so fast. A lot of us want our dose of soap operas each day, and we can zip through them. These are seven-minute episodes, and it’s a continuing story that we all love.

MICHAEL:

Now, let’s take a stroll down memory lane together. You have loved soaps for a long time, isn’t that correct?

BRYNN:

I loved “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” when I was in college.

MICHAEL:

And how did you finally end up on a soap and on “OLTL” as ‘thee’ Jenny Wolek?

BRYNN:

I was a schoolteacher and went to New York City, and was not sure what I was going to do. Then one thing lead to another, and I started taking acting classes. I took a class that Peter Miner, one of the directors of “OLTL” was teaching. He suggested I go in to read the role originated by Kathy Glass of Jenny Wolek, since they were looking for a replacement. And so, I knew I would not get it on my acting ability, because I had very little of it at the time. I was a huge watcher of the show, and Kathy Glass at the time, had this Dorothy Hamill haircut. So I thought, “I will go get my haircut like that,” because they usually recast someone with somebody who looks like the person who is leaving, so the audience doesn’t go crazy. I came in to do the final audition with Michael Storm (Larry), and I had my hairdo and I got the part!

MICHAEL:

Brynn, you were on “OLTL” at the time when it was the most spectacular. To this day, I don’t think there have ever been such exceptional actors in one cast at one time!

judith.jpgBRYNN:

It was so great, that we had all these incredible actors there at the time: Judith Light (Karen), Gerald Anthony (Marco), Steve Fletcher (Brad), Michael Storm (Larry), and Erika Slezak (Viki). They all had these extensive acting backgrounds, and they all are such giving actors. They knew I was really ‘green’, and they would meet with me before the show and work with me on the material for the next day. So they became my teachers, and that’s unheard of! They were so helpful. Now, I hear about jealousy and backstabbing. But this cast, at that time, I could not ask for a better situation… plus, they gave me all their secrets and tips. (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

But you must have been so excited and terrified at the same time. I mean, there were Erika Slezak and Judith Light to do scenes with!

BRYNN:

First of all, because I was such a fan, I would say to Erika, “Good morning Viki, I mean Erika!” I knew them only as their character. I was mesmerized. Judith and I were both only children at the time and both wanted a sister, and for whatever reason we became the closest of friends.

MICHAEL:

You were in the historic courtrooms scenes where Karen takes the witness stand and admits she’s a prostitute. Can you recall how the day of taping went down, and what it was like sitting there watching Judith deliver and perform her Daytime Emmy winning performance? Did Judith do it in one take?

judithold.jpgBRYNN:

If it was two takes, I am not aware of it. I think it was one. I knew I was witnessing something that was an historical moment in soap operas. I was very new on the show. I could not take my eyes off of her, and she is always doing something that is a surprise. I can’t take my eyes off her now on “Ugly Betty”. She was one of the only actresses that ever looked into the camera and broke the fourth wall. Judith looked straight in the camera at the audience, and Judith did it and got away with it. If some other person would have tried that, I don’t know if that would have worked, but with her it was like, “Oh my God, she is looking right at me!” Judith said, “I am going into their living rooms,” and she did, and she was amazing! In the courtroom scenes, you could hear a pin drop during the tapings. We would do a run-through but not on the stage. Judith did not put it all out there in rehearsal, but pretty much of it. She would do that, and she is a professional, and that took a long time because of the camera angles. She gave it 100% every time. Six months ago, I watched it again and it’s as strong then as it was thirty years ago. It’s a true legendary moment. I called Judith up crying going, “I just watched the courtroom scene,” and Judith went, “You are out of your mind!” She said, “Get a life.” I started out as a fan, so I will always be a fan.

MICHAEL:

But Brynn, you were pretty amazing yourself. Every one out there loved “poor” Jenny!

Brynn-Michael.jpgBRYNN:

I remember the first day I was on the soap. I was scared to death. I think someone was dying on the show during my first day and I had to be in tears. I had a scene with Lillian Hayman (Sadie) and Nat Polen (Jim). They wanted me to cry on a particular line, and somehow I did it. I was scared to death that if I didn’t do it I would get fired.

MICHAEL:

You and the late Michael Zaslow (Ex-Roger, “GL” and Ex-David “OLTL”) shared such a special relationship and friendship. What were your thoughts on this terrific man and actor?

BRYNN:

When Michael first came on the “OLTL” show, I thought, “I want a storyline with him.” I got a storyline with him, and it developed into this amazing friendship. We had so much fun together, with his family, his two girls and his wife, Susan. We did so much together. He was an extraordinary man. He taught me so much about life.

I think he is one of the finest actors I will ever get to work with and he’s that fine of a person. He had such a great sense of morality and truth. I respected that. He told you the truth but said it in a compassionate way, and I think that converted it into the way he acts, whether he was Roger Thorpe on “GL” or David Renaldi on “OLTL”.

MICHAEL:

You were very instrumental in bringing the ALS story to ABC Daytime with Michael. I believe Jenny has been killed in an avalanche, so David comes back without her to Llanview. Tell me how did this all come about?

michael.jpgBRYNN:

I went to Houston with Michael. His wife could not come. My husband and I were living in LA and they were in New York. It was suggested that he go to an ALS clinic in Houston. I met him there, and we spent a week there with him being tested and going through it all. It was extremely difficult. When we were there, we had the idea of Jenny and David coming back to “OLTL” and doing a whole ALS story. I think it was kind of something to look forward to and to be hopeful about, because of the news and information that was being told to him about his disease, and so I wrote it all out. It gave us hope. We called Susan, his wife, and told her about it. I came out to New York later. So, Michael, Susan and I, met with the ABC’s execs and we told them our plan. From the beginning, they were on board. It turned out it was better for them for me not to be in the storyline. So, they brought David back and he had a wonderful storyline with Robin Strasser (Dorian). I think it was brave and bold of ABC. I admire them for taking it on. It was a wonderful thing for Michael and I to be a part of it, and to help bring awareness to the public about ALS.

MICHAEL:

You were married to your then “OLTL” co-star Gerald Anthony back in the 80’s. Many fans seemed to be shocked that the two of you were married in real life.

BRYNN:

The writers called us in, and told us they were going to put us together on camera, after we had been going out. We were thrilled. We were having our storyline together, and we, of course, thought we were “hot,’ and then the writers called us back in the office and told us, “We are splitting your characters up.” and we were like, “What? What are you talking about?” They then go, “There’s no chemistry on camera.” We were hysterical and died laughing because here we thought we had so much chemistry. But then we got married anyway in real life, but I guess it was kind of foreshadowing! (He laughs)

MICHAEL:

You ended up divorced but you still stayed in touch with him, correct?

Brynn-Gerry-baseball.jpgBRYNN:

Yes. He was one of the loves of my life, and though the marriage did not work out our friendship survived. We talked to each other a lot on the phone, and kept up with each other through the years. Gerry was a special person. I have a real soft spot for him in my heart to this day, and always will. He was one of the most intelligent and bright people I ever met. I thought he was such a fascinating actor. I could not take my eyes off of him, and Judith Light and him together, was just the best.

MICHAEL:

Sadly, Gerry passed away a few years ago in 2004… that must have been hard for you.

BRYNN:

It was so sad. He was a great spirit, and a dear human being, and because of the crazy wonderful characters he portrayed people did not see the soft spot in him.

MICHAEL:

Now in 2008, “OLTL” just had its own baby-switch, with Bess switching Starr’s baby for Jessica’s dead baby. Jenny was involved in perhaps the greatest baby switcheroo of all time, when Karen switched Jenny’s baby with Katrina Karr’s. How was that to play?

BRYNN:

The baby switch was so much fun, and Nancy Snyder who played Katrina was also so wonderful.

MICHAEL:

When you watch “OLTL” now, who gets your attention?

BRYNN:

I love Trevor St. John (Todd). I have “OLTL” on in the background a lot, so when I hear his voice and Kassie DePaiva’s (Blair) voice, I usually always go to the television, because I think similar things about both of them. I think they are both surprising and I am always interested to see what they do, and I don’t get tired of them.

Robert-JudithThay.jpgMICHAEL:

Now you and Judith Light, and her hubby, Robert Desiderio, are very close and hang out together on many occasions, right?

BRYNN:

We are in touch all the time. My husband David, and Robert are good friends, and when we are all in town together, we go over to Judith and Robert’s. Judith is an amazing cook. They have a great kitchen, and when you walk in, she is one of those people that have the cookbook holder with a picture of the dish she is making, and the dish comes out better than it looks in the book! Now I am talking about whether its Blueberry crumble, or Roasted Garlic with extraordinary vegetables. It’s so much fun. I really only want to eat Judith’s food. (She laughs) When you open their freezer it’s like a festival!

MICHAEL:

I asked Robert why he thinks his marriage to Judith works. So, I will also ask you, what do you think makes your relationship with your husband David work? What’s the secret of marital success for you?

BRYNN:

David is a manager of comedians and he is very funny, that’s what makes it work for me. We laugh all the time. I have a stepson who is 31 named Mason. If I had been fortunate to have a child, I would have picked him. He is a great kid.

MICHAEL:

Brynn, what would you still love to do or play?

eulogy3.jpgBRYNN:

I am always up for a soap! I just finished a play, “Rabbit Hole” and I played the mother of the two daughters. I was a loud-mouthed drunk, and had so much fun doing it. I also wrote and performed in a one-woman show, directed by Michael Learned, called “Eulogy” and had a great time doing that. I would love to do another play.

MICHAEL:

What did you think of Judith and Robert’s new movie, “Save Me”?

BRYNN:

“Save Me” is a movie that Judith and Robert, and their managers developed. It’s a wonderful, touching, beautiful movie, and Robert is credited with the screen writing, and they got a movie made, and that’s a big deal! It got great reviews. The story is really about Judith’s character revolution. She tries to convert men that are gay, become straight, and they have these facilities in the country. It’s her journey.

MICHAEL:

Don’t you ever look back and look at the experience you had from being on “OLTL” and all of that, and just pinch yourself that you were a part of it all?

BRYNN:

Definitely! It was such a good eight years of my life on “OLTL”. I only have good memories of that.

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MICHAEL:

Finally, if people went online to view, “Life in General”, what would you tell them to expect?

BRYNN:

You will laugh, and it’s intriguing, with good acting, and good writing, and a good fast, quick fix.

robert2.jpgTHE ROBERT DESIDERIO INTERVIEW

“LIFE IN GENERAL”

He played Steve Piermont on “OLTL”, the man who nabbed Karen Wolek’s heart, and the two eventually went on the run together in the storyline. In real life, Daytime Award winning Actress, Judith Light and Robert Desiderio, ran away from Llanview and into each other’s arms.

Robert is one of television’s most accomplished actors. Soap fans will also remember his star turn as Ted Melcher on the hit primetime soap, “Knots Landing” in the late eighties.

Now, with an emphasis on a writing career, Robert has won the critics and audiences applause with his screenplay for “Save Me”. The film tackles the delicate and tough subject of a sex and drug addicted young man who is forced into a Christian-run ministry in an attempt to cure him of his “gay affliction”. Instead, he is faced with his truth in his heart and in his spirit. Chad Allen and Judith Light star.

I caught up with Robert recently for part of “On-Air On-Soaps”, “Life In General” special feature. Robert and his friend, actress Brynn Thayer, play the cantankerous couple of the online soap!

MICHAEL:

How did you get involved with “Life In General”. Was it through Brynn?

ROBERT:

Indirectly. Brynn was in a one-woman show, and Judith and I were at the after-party and Karen Harris came up to me and said, “You know, you would be good for this thing that I am working on.” I said, “Send it to me,” and she did. I told her it was great writing and I would love to do it. Brynnie and I shot it all in one day. It was great!

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Brynn.jpgMICHAEL:

You and Brynn played Rachel and Brian Day….the couple that would always fight.

ROBERT:

We are this couple who has this awful relationship off camera. On camera, it’s just as fueled. What I love about what Karen has done with it is that when you see the soap opera itself, the audience knows all the subtext because they have seen these two characters go through hell offstage.

MICHAEL:

They can’t get it together and they fight all the time?

ROBERT:

He is unfaithful, and she is bitter. They have been divorced and remarried multiple times. He is full of himself and he thinks he is the star of the show.

MICHAEL:

Without naming names, did you see people similar to Brian in your soap career?

ROBERT:

The truth is, I did “Ryan’s’ Hope”, “Search for Tomorrow”, where I played an Italian Prince with Rod Arrants (Ex-Travis Sentell), and “One Life to Live”. One Life was the show I had the most experience with. Nobody there was temperamental. It would be tough to memorize stuff everyday, but tempers would sometimes flare because of the level of tensions, because you had to get through material so fast. But, no one was a primadonna that I remembered. We are putting a little spin on it with “Life in General”. Personally, I don’t’ know anybody with the degree of narcissism that’s revealed as openly as Brian does on the soap. (He laughs).

robert3.jpgMICHAEL:

Would you do more episodes of “Life In General”?

ROBERT:

Absolutely! It’s really well done. Working with those little cameras, it’s easy to have it disappear for an actor. When you see it streamed on the Internet, you are very impressed with the quality.

MICHAEL:

“Life in General” can be found on Strike TV, which was formed as an online platform for writers to show their work during the writer’s strike. How did “Life In General” end up online?

ROBERT:

When all this discussion was going on during the writer’s strike, the Writers Guild said, “Let’s create something to show what this medium is,” and then anybody who is in the guild can submit something. They had 30 projects that they green-lighted and those made it to the Internet site.

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MICHAEL

How was working with Brynn again? You worked with her on “OLTL” when you and Judith were on the show back in the heyday, and it was amazing!

ROBERT:

I never worked with Brynn. I worked with Judith. You know, the gangster meets the hooker with a heart of gold. It was great. It was the early 1980’s when I came on, and my role was scheduled to last only two weeks long, but then something happened between Judith and I. Soaps are hard to write. It’s tough to write an hour a day, and sometimes they need all the help they can get, and we gave them help. They said, “Let’s write for these two.” They saw the chemistry between Steve and Karen.

MICHAEL:

But in real life, is that when you got together?

Robert-JudithDes.jpgROBERT:

We met during the show. The first time I met Judith, and I can picture it today, it was a scene in Ina’s boarding house. She was rehearsing. I saw her there, and it was like, “whoa!” There was a big connection there. I knew my storyline was going to be with her and I introduced myself to her, and it went from there. Judith and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in January.

MICHAEL:

Is it difficult maintaining a relationship between you and Judith, when both of you are in show business? What is the key to the success of your marriage after 25 years?

ROBERT:

I say the key is to talk through everything. We have two gentlemen who manage us who have been a couple for 25 years, Herb Hamscher and Jonathan Stoller. We started out as friends, since Judith knew them when she was in New York. Herb has a deep background in psychology, and Jonathan has the ‘think tank’ aspects of life. We started out as friends, and it evolved into a business relationship where Herb managed Judith and me, and Jonathan became our financial guy. We have a wonderful little unit where we are all able to support each other. It’s nice to have a neutral party outside of a couple. It’s not often comfortable, but it’s always alive, and even the discomfort is good if you are committed to work through something. That is the essence of why we stayed together at this level for so long. There is nothing we don’t talk about. We work on not coming from a place of blaming anybody. I grew up in the Bronx, and I did not grow up with this kind of mentality. So this is totally strange for me, but everybody has it in them to gravitate towards relationships and loving. The key is support.

saveme.jpgMICHAEL:

Your feature film “Save Me” has gotten rave reviews, and it’s so spectacular. I see Independent Spirit Award nominations coming. You wrote the screenplay, and Judith starred in it as Gayle and is one of the producers. How did it come about?

ROBERT:

Craig Chester, wrote “Save Me” as a farce 10 or 12 years ago. Over the years, the people who had the option on it wanted to make it a drama. I was asked to come in and do a complete rewrite of it to make it the movie it turned out to be. The screenplay is mine. The movie is great.

MICHAEL:

Do you enjoy the writing aspects of your talents more now than the acting?

ROBERT:

I do like the writing aspect, because you are creating the world. As an actor you are a hired hand, otherwise you take the job for money or because you like it. One of the things I challenge myself with is writing. I like it because I have a good sense of an audience, and that they may not want something too artsy. “Save Me” was entertaining, powerful and means something, but also something that could create a conversation, and that is something we did with the film. We wanted to create a conversation where nobody’s made wrong, which is the one of the things that is great about the movie. We have received feedback from Christian communities. We don’t make the angelic couple who run this appear wrong. They are misguided, but not evil. The audience can make up its own mind, but you just see the effect it has on somebody in the movie.

MICHAEL:

How did Judith come to this role?

chad3.jpgROBERT:

Chad Allen was involved in a company in New York, and asked Judith and Robert Gant to read it and put it on the stage. Then they talked about making it a movie, and this was 5 years before the film even got made. So they have all been involved since the beginning, and they were the producers and got the roles they were going to get anyway.

MICHAEL:

You and Judith have been so active in the fight against AIDS for so many years. You have been true leaders in the entertainment and LGBT communities and continue the efforts to raise awareness and funds. Where do you feel we are now with HIV/AIDS, not only domestically, but also globally?

ROBERT:

I think we can always be doing more. The financial situation in our current economy is devastating and affecting everybody. I think our hearts are in the right place. I think the rest of the world, which was resistant before because it was a gay disease, is being pushed aside more than ever. I think there is a transformation going on in the world with Obama taking over, and that is a symbol, and represents a tipping point where people will kind of live more as one. We can always be doing more with AIDS. People are dying by the millions in Africa and third world countries. It’s really tough!

MICHAEL:

When you looked back at your soap career, and playing the wonderful character of Steve Piermont on “OLTL”, what comes to mind?

ROBERT:

I loved doing the show and being in New York at the time with Gerald Anthony (Marco) and Michael Storm (Larry). I mean, these were really serious actors and it was a real family there. Robin Strasser (Dorian) and Erika Slezak (Viki) are still there… Robert Woods (Bo), Phillip Carey (Asa)… It was an all -star team. I loved the building we were in… the castle on 66th street.

Robert-Judith.jpgMICHAEL:

What do you think of your wife’s performance as Claire on “Ugly Betty”? It’s pretty terrific. Do you commute to New York often, since the show is now being shot in the Big Apple?

ROBERT:

I love “Ugly Betty”, and that cast is amazing. As tough as it was to relocate the show to New York, I think it was the right move. It takes place in New York and the city really affords a lot of opportunity, not only for actors, but that amazing scenery. So we are commuting a lot. I am in New York every two to three weeks. My home is here in LA. We talk every day or every other day and email a lot. It’s not more than three weeks that go by before we see each other again.

MICHAEL:

A few weeks ago the online website SoapsWeb.com had an All-Time Best Awards. They named Judith’s portrayal of Karen Wolek on the witness stand during Marco Dane’s murder trial, the greatest single moment EVER on soaps. What did you think of it?

ROBERT:

It’s great! Judith did a great job. You know, we started dating just before she won her second Emmy, so that was after all the courtroom stuff.

MICHAEL:

You were on the primetime soap “Knots Landing”. I remember the day Michelle Lee brought me to the set to visit and I got to see you again after many years.

ROBERT:

I loved it there, too. I got to work with Nicollete Sheridan (Paige) and William Devane (Greg Sumner) and Donna Mills (Abby). That was the group… the nefarious group. (He laughs) They were great.

MICHAEL:

So, what’s next for the ‘uber-talented’ Mr. Desiderio?

robert1.jpgROBERT:

I am trying to shop a pilot, and I am writing my first novel. I love it, and it keeps me sane.

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MICHAEL:

In closing, tell us what to tell your fans about why they should check out “Life in General”?

ROBERT:

Go see it because it’s really well done. I don’t know anything that shows you backstage of a soap opera. It’s really clever, well written, and it’s good laughter and it’s short, and it leaves you wanting more

Days Of Our Lives

Matthew Ashford and Melissa Reeves Talk Return to DAYS for Doug’s Funeral, Susan Seaforth Hayes, and Their Enduring Friendship

Last week, Days of our Lives celebrated the taping of their 15,000th episode which is tentatively scheduled to air on December 3rd. The story will feature emotional and heart-tugging scenes of Doug Williams funeral and honor his portrayer, the beloved Bill Hayes, who passed away on January 12th at the age of 98.

While the actors, producers, and crew took a lunch time break to pose for some pictures and speak with the press, they knew they would have to get back to taping the funeral, which was going to make it a tough day, but also cathartic for all who loved Bill Hayes.

Several returns have thus far been announced including; Melissa Reeves reprising her signature role of Jennifer Horton (a part she first played in 1985), and Matthew Ashford as Jack Deveraux. Reeves had last appeared on the show back in 2021, and she was replaced by Emmy-winner Cady McClain in her absence when Jennifer was in storylines. In real-life, Melissa had moved full-time to Tennessee along with her husband, Scott Reeves (ex-DAYS, GH, Y&R). Now, and as previously reported, Reeves will first appear back on DAYS for the Thanksgiving episodes with the Hortons.

Photo: JPI

Michael Fairman TV caught up with Matt and Melissa during the 15,000th episode celebration to get their take on: being back for these special episodes, how it has been working with and watching Susan Seaforth Hayes portray Julie’s grief over losing Doug, and how they have supported each other through the years. Check out what they shared below.

Melissa, you are back on the set of Days of our Lives for this very emotional and special moment in the series history. How does it feel?

MELISSA: Oh, my goodness. I am honored. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but to be here for Bill. He was like my real-life dance partner. He taught me how to ballroom dance. And to be here for Susan, of course, who’s just been our sweet hero this whole week. We’re just following her lead. She’s just been this incredibly strong example for us in the midst of this trial and season of her life. She is like just lifting us all up with her. It’s been incredible.

I was at Bill Hayes memorial service which was truly incredible and I know at the time you were in Tennessee. It was moving and celebratory of his life, all at the same time.

MELISSA: That’s all I have heard. I have to watch it on You Tube. They said it was just a real celebration of his life and I love that.

Photo: JPI

This must be difficult for Susan Seaforth Hayes depicting the death of Doug, when she is still grieving the loss of her beloved husband. (Susan pictured above with the returning Stephen Schnetzer who plays her on-screen brother, Steve Olson).

MELISSA: I’m sure Susan has those moments at home by herself, but she’s so good at being a leader and leading all of us. We’re following her, you know, and she’s like, “This is how I want to feel today.” And we’re just going along with her, you know? It’s so sweet.

Photo: JPI

How is it to see Matt Ashford again live and in-person?

MELISSA: You know, Matt and I can go years without talking, or seeing each other, and then the minute we see each other we’re chatting away.

MATT: Melissa was out on set doing a scene yesterday on the phone talking to a stage manager; as she was telling some really tough news on the phone. I’m like crying in the background, literally, I’m off-stage crying.

MELISSA: And then we get like back into normal life, and we’re like, okay, “What’s happening? What’s happening with this … or what’s happening with that?”

I had read, Melissa, that you were in touch with Matt about if there night be a possibility for you to reprise your role as Jennifer for these special episodes?

MELISSA: Yes. Well, Matt was like, “Hey! Would you want to come back? “And I was like, “Matt, you know, I would always come back. ”

MATT:  Every time I come here to Days of our Lives, they ask, “Where’s Missy? How’s Missy?” Everybody backstage says, “I miss her.” All of the crew is asking about her and saying, “It would be nice to see Missy. Nothing wrong with you Matt, but …”  They said, “Where is she?” I said, “She wants to come!”

Photo: JPI

There are some beautiful photos of Missy and Bill and Susan thorough the years that I found. It just reminded me of just the deep and entrenched history we all have had with the show, personally and professionally.

MATT: Missy is roughly the age where Francis Reid (ex-Alice Horton) was when she started the show, which is just crazy.

Photo: JPI

I’ve always said Missy was going to be the next generation Alice. Do you feel that Jennifer is the heir apparent matriarch of the Horton family?

MELISSA: Yes. I mean, this has been greatest blessing of my life, and that would be great. I told Ken Corday (executive producer, Days of our Lives) when I was 17 that this show would be my life. Ken always told me, “This is your home,” and I’ve always felt like that.

How have gotten through the scenes watching Susan Seaforth Hayes as Julie go through the loss of Doug?

MATT: Susan is bringing her best performance life for her and Bill. I mean, she’s a showbiz baby. She always has been one hundred percent, and she’s doing it for him, and this is who they’ve always been. So, you’re seeing this amazing performance colored by her life. She has her private life as Susan, but she has enough plugged into Julie that she’s done amazing work. The director, producers and writers are giving her room to live in these moments and it’s quite wonderful.

Photo: JPI

Have you already broken down in tears during the taping?

MELISSA: Yesterday, but today’s taping of the actual funeral I think they want us to try and be just more celebratory.

MATT: I mean, it is a beautiful long life for Bill Hayes and his character of Doug Williams, and so it will be about that. Then, you get a bunch of us together in the church pews, and there’s going to be hijinks.

MELISSA: We all have been through the waves of grief. You have that awful cry and then all of a sudden you feel okay.  There are those family situations we are portraying where you’re like, “What do we do? What do we do now? You know, no one knows what to do. But, it’s so sweet. I’m looking forward to seeing how the scenes all turn out.

So, are you glad that Matt and Melissa are back for the 15K episode and Doug’s funeral? From what we can tell, it’s going to be quite an emotional journey for Days of our Lives fans, and especially the performance of Susan Seaforth Hayes, 

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Days Of Our Lives

Ron Carlivati Talks on Decision to Make Days of our Lives 15000th Episode About Doug’s Funeral, and Previews Chances for WGA Award

This week, Days of our Lives celebrated the taping of their 15,000th episode. In of it itself, that is an incredible accomplishment for the long-running soap opera currently streaming on Peacock.

However, this on set gathering was a bit different. Though the show is celebrating their achievement, they are also in the middle of taping scenes surrounding the death and the funeral of Doug Williams, played by the late Bill Hayes, who passed away on January 12th of this year at the age of 98.

As previously revealed many longtime favorites are back to honor Bill and the character of Doug including: Gloria Loring (Liz), Melissa Reeves (Jennifer), Matthew Ashford (Jack), Maree Cheatham (Marie), Victoria Konefal (Ciara) and Stephen Schnetzer (Steve) to name but a few.

Photo: JPI

Michael Fairman TV was in attendance and spoke with Days of our Lives head writer, Ron Carlivati to gain some insight into how the 15,000 episode was crafted and the decision to honor the character of Doug Williams and Bill Hayes as its epicenter. In addition, Ron weighed-in on this Sunday’s April 14th WGA (Writers Guild of America) Awards, where he and his writing team are facing off with General Hospital for the daytime drama prize. Here’s what Ron shared below.

Was this your idea to make the 15,000th episode centered around Doug’s funeral and passing?

RON: It was. When you’re looking at it, and laying out the calendar for the whole year and you see 15,000 is coming up, we’re like, “What are we going to do?” And then, we got the news that Bill had passed away and something kind of clicked. I was like, “We should honor Doug on that show.” So then, we started to kind of build around that … when does he pass away? How does he pass away? Who could come back? You know, it’s a lot.  I’m very pleased with the returns that we got as there’s so much that you could do. We wanted everybody we could get. So, we put together a wish list and Janet Drucker (co-executive producer, Days of our Lives) made it happen.

Photo: JPI

You have Melissa Reeves back as Jennifer, when the role was last played by Cady McClain. What has it meant to have Missy back for these shows?

RON: It was so nice to see Missy Reeves. I think Cady has done such a good job, but on the 15,000th episode to see Missy as Jennifer, it’s a big deal. So having her was great, and overall, the milestone was a big undertaking, because you want to live up to it. You want the 15,000th episode to be good. Now, it has a lot of real emotion that you’re playing. because for the cast and the crew they’re honoring Bill Hayes just as much as we’re honoring Doug Williams.

Photo: JPI

Was it hard for you and the team to write this episode?

RON: Yes. I’ll tell you why it was hard to write.  When I wrote, for example, Asa’s (Phillip Carey) death on One Life to Live or Victor’s (John Aniston) on DAYS, Asa is a different type of character. Like, you could have characters going, “Oh! I’m glad he is dead.” You could have different points of view, but with Doug, you’re not having that. Every person loves this man. No one had a bad relationship with him. So, you’re challenge as a writer is how do you make it that not everybody’s saying the same thing and doing the same thing. And so, we tried to find ways to make the episode about all the familial relationships and yet, how do you make it about Doug and yet broaden the scope.

Photo: JPI

I had spoken to Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie), a week after Bill’s memorial, for an interview. She said that she felt very fortunate that you did include her on discussions of how you would tackle Doug’s passing. How did that conversation go?

RON: First, I attended Bill’s funeral, which was incredible. I said to so many people it was an emotional service, but it was hard to be sad at this. The guy had an incredible life and it was an incredible celebration. And so, you’re sitting there watching this knowing that you now have to write something similar. And how do you write something that lives up to what you just witnessed? I wanted to talk to Susan to get her thoughts about, you know, how much do you want this to be about keeping Bill separate from Doug. How comfortable are you sharing your grief. She was incredible to talk to. It was a great chat.

You’re in the middle of taping these major scenes for the 15,000 episode to air in December. How do you think it’s going? Have you seen any of the scenes?

RON:  I haven’t seeing anything. I mean, we were still making changes to the script up till this morning!

Photo: JPI

The Writers Guild Awards are this Sunday, April 14th and once again this year there are two daytime drama nominees, General Hospital and Days of our Lives. How are you feeling about your chances this year?

RON: It is often just GH and us in the category. I’ve won three years in a row, so I’m kind of feeling like it’s their turn.

Photo: JPI

What episodes did you submit for contention? If I recall, they had to do with Victor’s memorial.

RON: The episodes we submitted were centered around Victor’s funeral. I think one has story with Vivian (Louise Sorel). We had some fun stuff, we had some emotional stuff at Victor’s death, and I am pretty sure that our submission was three episodes right around that time.

Did you make the decision to go with those episodes because there was a mix of humor and drama?

RON: I like to have some humor, but it was also the funeral, then there’s Sarah (Linsey Godfrey) giving birth, and then Vivian’s crashing the reading of the will. So, we had a lot of fun and it’s hard sometimes to pick three that tell a story, as opposed to submitting for the Daytime Emmys, where the writing team only submits two shows. So, we shall see how it goes on Sunday.

Courtesy/Peacock

So, are you looking forward to the emotional 15,000th episode of Days of our Lives? Do you think DAYS will take home the WGA writing award for daytime dramas for the 4th year in a row? Comment below.

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Days Of Our Lives

(INTERVIEW) Eric Martsolf Previews DAYS Stars on ‘Weakest Link’, How He Fared in the Game, Plus Welcoming New Tate, Leo Howard

Tuesday night on NBC’s Weakest Link (9 p.m. ET/PT), the stars of Days our of Lives test their knowledge, and try to win big money for the charity of their choice on the newest season of the popular game show hosted by Jane Lynch. In case you miss it, you can also catch the episode on Wednesday streaming on Peacock.

The question on everyone’s mind is … who will be revealed as Salem’s weakest link? Who will be left standing at the end of the game? DAYS favorites: Eric Martsolf (Brady) Brynn Dattilo (Lucas), Galen Gering (Rafe), Martha Madison (Belle), Victoria Konefal (ex-Ciara), Zach Tinker (Sonny), Tina Huang (Melinda) and Lindsay Arnold (ex-Allie) play while literally having the task of throwing their co-stars under the bus. The contestant who receives the highest number of votes leaves the game throughout, as Lynch declares their exit with the now iconic phrase, “You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye.” 

Michael Fairman TV caught up with Eric Martsolf, who daytime fans know is great as a host in his own right and oh-so-fun at playing any trivia game you throw at him. Martsolf gave us the inside scoop of what it was like to be on the set and backstage in a rather nerve-wracking environment, and trying to come off as smart while Jane Lynch roasts you at the same time!

Photo: NBC

In addition, Eric shared his thoughts on the new Tate, as Leo Howard takes over the role of his on-screen son from Jamie Martin Mann on the April 5th episode of Days of our Lives, plus working with Emily O’Brien as Theresa, and the loss of the legendary Bill Hayes. Check out what Eric had to say below.

Did you know about the game before? Had you watched the original version of the Weakest Link, or this latest incarnation?

ERIC: I was very, very familiar with the game because I found, as someone who enjoys hosting, that has to be one of the best hosting gigs out there because they just have extreme liberties in belittling the contestants, and it’s all done in jest of course, but it’s great. Jane Lynch is a master.

Did you get to meet Jane Lynch before she hit the stage for the taping?

ERIC: I don’t think any of us met her prior to being on the set. So, we’re standing there behind our podiums and these cyber lights just point all in one direction. At one point when we’re out there, it was kind of a hurry up and wait thing. We’re just like, “When is this going to start?” Then, here Jane comes and in all her glory in a beautiful navy-blue suit. She just prances onto stage and just glares over at us, and starts making fun of a silly soap opera actors like you wouldn’t believe. It was just great. I’ll let the public see what how she crucified us. But it was all done in fun.

Photo: NBC

Did she crucify you?

ERIC: I don’t think anybody got out unscathed to be honest with you.

For those that don’t know the game, you try to eliminate those that are the weakest in answering questions.

ERIC: Correct, and therein lies the problem. Historically, I think the Weakest Link is comprised of contestants that don’t really know each other, and in this case, you have not only coworkers, but almost family members because we all know each other very, very well. It’s a tight circle and even more so when you’re on the same show. So, we all went in into it pretty nervous because the premise of the game is to expose the inadequacy of people’s knowledge of general facts and information. So, essentially, you’re voting each other off because you don’t think they’re as smart as you are and that they’re the least smart in the group. So, I mean, that in itself is pretty, pretty tough to swallow. It was really hard, because you have to look at your friends in the eye and go, “yeah, I don’t think you’re going to get the next couple questions. You’re not the smartest, you’re not the crispiest chip in the bag. I’m going to let you go. ”

Did you feel bad about some of the eliminations?

ERIC: At one point, without giving away any spoilers, I voted off someone that without a doubt, has more smarts and education than I do. I just felt silly. But, you know, the way the game was going, I just felt it was the right. There is a bit of strategy involved. I’m worried about the airing of this particular episode because I did fumble some questions that people are going to turn their heads and go, “Really? You didn’t get that one?” It’s so much easier to answer these questions at home in your pajamas than it is, you know, looking at Jane Lynch in the eye with 6,000 lights at your face in front of cameras. Your brain tends to wander. So yes, we all had had some answers that we couldn’t believe we didn’t get at the time!

Photo: NBC

Did it get very competitive?

ERIC: There was little competition there. If I recall, it’s Galen and Bryan that went at it a little bit and had some laughs. But again, I can’t stress this enough, it was all done with fun. At the end of the day, every one of us wanted to win. I think the smartest person did actually come out victorious.

Now in the game, for those that have never seen it, you’re on your podium, and then Jane gives a question, right?

ERIC:  It’s a firing squad of questions. You only have a certain amount of time to answer. If you get the correct answer or the wrong answer, you immediately, go to the next contestant and you have a certain amount of time. And then, at the end of that line of questioning, everyone gets to vote as to who they believed was the biggest dummy in the group. (Laughs) Some questions are simple. You know, “What color is Santa Claus’ suit?” And then, the next question is “What is 648,000 times 14?” or what’s the population of some obscure country? So, that was the biggest challenge. Someone else might get, “What is the main ingredient of a banana split?” And my question could be like, “How much is 9,430 times x 59 million?” There’s an intimidation factor that Jane Lynch brings to it when she’s staring you down.

Photo: NBC

When the cast finished the entire game, what happened backstage?

ERIC:  The best part was there were these post interviews that the Weakest Link conducts where you have to go into a dark black room. I think my first question was, “How did you feel about that wrong answer?” They don’t let up. They just keep jabbing at you. “Did you feel ridiculous getting the wrong answer to that fourth-grade level question?” (Laughs) There was also a lot of trash talk with that happened after the show. It got so competitive. If I recall, we were all supposed to go out together and get a meal with everybody, and that never happened. They’re like, “I’m not eating lasagna with you right now. You just voted me off!” Now, even the first person that gets voted off, you’re going to be shocked, because I thought this person would probably win it. In the game, you want the best people to remain on the panel because that’s what drives up the money.

Photo: JPI

Later this week on DAYS, we will see the debut of your new on-screen son, Leo Howard, taking over from Jamie Martin Mann as Tate.

ERIC: How about that?  I just did a post on Instagram, because I saw that Jamie Martin Mann had liked and hearted a post about Leo Howard coming on the show. I just thought that was so classy of him. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, “This is the new guy. Embrace him. He’s good. I’ve met him. He is a good guy.” It’s about handing off the character baton sometimes, sort to speak. I was really proud of those guys. I reached out to Jamie. He just wants to go to college and be a student. I understand that. That’s important.

Photo: JPI

Is that challenging for you as an actor since you’ve built this relationship with the one guy as your son, and now you’ve got to pivot and create a different kind of energy with someone else taking on the part?

ERIC: Leo Howard has been in the industry for a while, with some very good credits to his name. He brings a certain charisma to this role that I think people are really going to love. And yes, he’s older, but he plays younger, and he has that ability and he’s pulling it off brilliantly. I can’t wait for people to see him, but of course I miss Jamie. Emily O’Brien (Theresa) and I really grew to love him very quickly because the storyline got so deep, so quickly, with the drug intervention and then him getting beat up in in prison. I mean, as a father, that’s the kind of stuff that you have nightmares about, you know, your kids being in pain.

Photo: JPI

I still love the fact that Emily O’Brien is still noticeably wearing a blonde wig as Theresa. What are your thoughts on how the transition has been for you, and for her pivoting to a completely different role?

ERIC: I hadn’t worked with Emily much before, because Gwen and Brady never really crossed paths. We all saw the transition that she had to make. When I became Brady, the character hadn’t been on the map for three years.  When she became Theresa, she walks out one gate and comes through the other as Theresa. We all had a good giggle about it. That’s hard to ask an audience to go,  OK, I’m Gwen, now I’m Theresa.” I was scrolling through X (formerly Twitter) and I saw a couple posts from fans that said how they were really weary, at first, about accepting Emily O’Brien as Theresa. But after today’s episode, they shared, “I’m loving her as Tate’s mom, and the chemistry she has with the family.” I texted Emily and I said, “I just want to let you know that you’re just bringing it home really brilliantly, and people are starting to come around.” I think they’ll do that with Leo Howard too.

Photo: JPI

What had it been like without the iconic Bill Hayes (Doug Williams) coming to work and being part of the Days of our Lives cast since his passing?

ERIC: You really do miss that presence in the hallways. He was a song and dance guy and I am a song and dance guy. as well. I kind of find myself the lone singer in the makeup room sometimes, but I could always count on Bill. He’d be humming some old tune from the sixties. I’d start humming along and he’d just kind of lean over and take a look at me, and give a little smile. Everyone else was probably irritated at us, but we just kept singing along. and it’s like 6:30 in the morning. I think Bill was a lot like the late John Aniston (ex-Victor), in the sense that I don’t really feel like he felt he was working. He was just always having fun right up until the end. That little number he did with his wife, Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie), and Dick Van Dyke (guest starring as Timothy Robicheaux), where he was singing along, he was just living it. It was so cute and so adorable to watch.

Photo: JPI

Your final tease for the Weakest Link tonight is, “Fans should watch because …”

ERIC: Fans should watch it because if they thought we were smart before, wait till they see the show.

You can check out the cold open for tonight’s Weakest Link “Days of our Lives special” below.

Now let us know, will you be watching Eric and his co-stars, past and present, attempting to showcase their knowledge on the ‘Weakest Link? Intrigued to see Leo Howard and Eric in scenes as new Tate and his father, Brady? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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